Minister Coveney Must Listen to the Grassroots on CAP Programme
Having attended several meetings over the last few months and heard the concerns of farmers on the ground, it is clear to me that Minister Coveney must re-evaluate his ideology and approach to the implementation of the Common Agricultural Policy.
Agriculture has a special placein the EU and the Common Agricultural Policy is one of the oldest policy areas, recognition of the multifunctional nature of agriculture and its contribution to both the economy and wider society at EU level.
This government must start listening to the concerns of its people, concerns that are coming from the grassroots up; this Minister must now listen and must now act on the concerns raised by farmers up and down this country and should implement the rural development program in accordance with the overall aims and objectives set out by the European Commission.
Many of the measures contained in the new GLAS scheme are unworkable, discriminatory and run contrary to what the Rural Development Program 2013-2020 should be about, which was mainly to build on the success of previous rounds, and to identify and address past weaknesses.
The measure whereby commonage farmers are required to form a collective agreement to gain entry into the GLAS scheme is divisive, counterproductive and cannot be accepted. This is not a requirement under any EU directive and will not address the complex issue of maintaining commonage and upland areas in optimum condition to remain eligible for EU payments, which will be to the benefit of all. Credible alternatives have been put forward, the Minister must now meaningfully engage with all stakeholders to put in place a scheme that all can buy in to.
The tiered structurefor entry into the GLAS scheme has to be amended to allow those farming marginal land and privately- owned mountain equal access into the scheme.
What is proposed will have the effect of ensuring that many farmers who traditionally participated in environmental schemes will not now be accepted into GLAS solely on the basis that they are farming more marginal land. This goes against all EU aspirations and against the long-term vision of what rural development is trying to achieve.
The lack of ‘joined-up thinking’ and an overall vision for Natura 2000 areas is also a concern. Farmers in designated lands feel abandoned as theyhave to work and farm under restriction without adequate financial support. Again this is not in line with EU policy.
The Minister must recognize that maintaining the family farm is central to EU policy and the creation of the Rural Development Fund was a tool designed to underpin the viability of farm families in marginal areas.
Luke Ming Flanagan MEP